Justice Official Questioned About 'Fast and Furious' Is Leaving His Job

Susan Jones | June 14, 2012 | 5:58am EDT
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Attorney General Eric Holder, right, talks with Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs Ronald Weich on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011, prior to Holder testifying before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Operation Fast and Furious. (Susan Walsh/AP)

(CNSNews.com) - Ronald Weich, an assistant attorney general for legislative affairs at the Justice Department who once denied reports of ATF gun-running, is leaving his job, the Justice Department announced Wednesday afternoon.

As CNSNews.com reported one year ago, Weich told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in June 2011 that he did not know who authorized the Justice Department’s “Operation Fast and Furious,” which deliberately let operatives of Mexican drug cartels purchase guns at licensed U.S. firearms dealers with the intent of tracking them to the criminals.

The effort failed, and two of the straw-purchased guns were later found at the place where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was murdered.

Pressed repeatedly at the hearing by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to say who at the Justice Department authorized the operation, Weich finally responded, “I do not know the answer to that question, and the (Justice Department) inspector-general is reviewing the matter.”

In an earlier (Feb. 4, 2011) letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, Weich denied that the ATF had ever allowed guns to be sold and taken across the border. Weich said that Grassley's allegation -- "that ATF ‘sanctioned’ or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them to Mexico – is false. ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico.”

In an interview with CNSNews.com, Issa characterized Weich's letter as a “lie” and said it pointed to a cover-up.

In its announcement on Wednesday, the Justice Department said Weich is leaving to become the dean of the University of Baltimore Law School.

“Ron’s leadership has been instrumental in realizing crucial legislative achievements, and I thank him for his tireless advocacy of department priorities,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a news release. “I am proud of the work done by the Office of Legislative Affairs under Ron’s watch to advance legislation vital to ensuring justice.”

Weich said it's been a "tremendous privilege" to serve at the Justice department: "We have worked effectively with Congress to advance the mission and goals of the Justice Department.”

The Justice Department announcement said that under Weich, the Office of Legislative Affairs has "worked to strengthen the department’s relationship with Congress." The news release mentions "numerous legislative achievements," but says nothing about "Fast and Furious."

Weich was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in April 2009. Prior to joining the Justice Department, Assistant Attorney General Weich served as chief counsel to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Judith C. Appelbaum, who has served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA), will serve as acting assistant attorney general following Weich’s departure.

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